In a recent press release, Jaguar Land Rover unveiled that it is looking into ways to reduce the amount of energy consumed by the current heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems used in modern vehicles. According to JLR’s Director of Research and Technology, Dr. Wolfgang Epple, current HVAC systems can draw as much as 10 kW from the battery of electric vehicles, which can reduce electric range by up to 40 percent. Gasoline-powered vehicles also suffer from range loss, as air-conditioning can consume enough energy to reduce drive range by up to 20 percent.

Jaguar Land Rover has been researching how to heat or cool an air bubble inside the vehicle as opposed conditioning the entire cabin space. This would mean that compartments like the glove box and center console wouldn’t be conditioned by the HVAC system. Other areas like trunk space, areas under the seat, and even the area surrounding unused seats would also remain unconditioned. The air inside these so-called “air bubbles” would be passed through a special filter that would make the air quality better than that of the air outside the vehicle.

Another future innovation we may see from JLR is something they call the “Warm Air Blanket.” Instead of heating the air inside a vehicle, JLR wants to directly heat or cool each occupant directly. By using infrared panels strategically and invisibly placed around the vehicle, the skin of each occupant can be warmed instead of the air inside the cabin. The sensation of warmth would be almost immediate because of how quickly and efficiently the infrared panels work. The panels would be hidden inside the sun visors, glove box and center console doors, and on the floor around the transmission tunnel. Early tests results have apparently shown that this technology alone can reduce the energy consumption of a vehicle’s HVAC system by 50 percent.

Other ideas include using infrared reflective (IRR) glass to prevent heating of the cabin by the sun’s rays, and by directing a flow of warm or cool air through porous surfaces in the seats. Since the direct effect of heating or cooling would be felt by vehicle occupants, it wouldn’t be necessary to operate the HVAC system constantly to maintain comfort. All of this is only part of what JLR is working on to reduce the energy consumption of all vehicles, and the emissions output of gasoline-powered vehicles. Read on to see what other innovations JLR has been working on.

Continue reading to learn more about this story.

The overall weight of a vehicle is critical to how much energy it takes to get it moving down the road. According to Dr. Epple, JLR engineers already lead the world in the development of lightweight vehicle bodies. Now those engineers have moved on to finding a way to reducing weight inside the vehicle as well. Everything has been taken into consideration — from the material seats are made out of all the way down to the copper wiring used to carry electricity from one component to another.

Everything has been taken into consideration -- from the material seats are made out of all the way down to the copper wiring used to carry electricity from one component to another.

If you were to crack open one of those new curved televisions, you wouldn’t see a bunch of wiring scattered around the case. You would see wafer-thin printed electronic circuits – one of the innovations that allow TVs to be so thin and lightweight compared to their older counterparts.

JLR has been researching whether or not it is feasible to use these printed circuits in place of most of the copper wiring inside a vehicle. The printed circuits would decrease the overall weight of the vehicle and would cut down on the space needed for electrical circuits. This alternative could be used for instruments inside the vehicle, lighting, heating and displays, and all of the switches inside the vehicle.

The other major innovation JLR is working on is called the Carbio Project. It is a project to expand the use of carbon fiber by making it cost-effective and environmentally friendly. By combining layers of carbon fiber and flax with cashew resin oil, JLR has done just that.

The combination brings the benefits of carbon fiber (lightweight and strength) with the low cost and sustainability of flax. Manufacturing cost is the same, but material cost of production is decreased by 33 percent. In addition to the lower cost, Carbio is half the weight of steel and a quarter the weight of aluminum. Components built with Carbio also require less sound-damping material, which means even more reduction of weight in the long run.

Why it matters

This research and development by JLR is huge for the future development of battery-powered, electric vehicles. Most all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles outside of Tesla models have a very short all-electric range. By dropping the weight of interior components and the draw from climate control, manufacturers will be able to extend all-electric range. This will be a huge advantage for manufacturers who haven’t developed battery technology that can compete with the likes of Tesla. Just image what kind of range we can see from electric cars like Tesla’s 2015 Tesla Model S or 2016 Tesla Model X, or Mercedes future Model S fighter, if this kind of technology and weight reduction really can help to increase range on such a dramatic level. I’m looking forward to seeing where JLR goes with all of this research.

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topsped.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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Press Release

Jaguar Land Rover has showcased some of the new and innovative low and zero emission technologies it is researching at this year’s CENEX Low Carbon Vehicle event.

As well as showing Battery Electric Vehicle, Plug-In Hybrid and Mild Hybrid technologies, Jaguar Land Rover’s research engineers have revealed how they are researching more efficient heating and ventilation systems and new solutions to reduce vehicle weight to improve emissions and fuel economy.

Because Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems (HVAC) consume substantial amounts of energy and therefore fuel, or electrical energy stored in the battery of a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Jaguar Land Rover is working on research projects that could dramatically reduce the energy consumed when heating and cooling a vehicle.

Dr Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Today’s HVAC systems can draw 8-10kW from an electric vehicle battery, enough to reduce the range by up to 40 per cent, while air conditioning can reduce the range of an internal combustion engine by up to 20 per cent.

“So to improve the fuel economy and emissions of internal combustion engines and to enhance the range of a future BEV, we have been rethinking the thermal management of a vehicle cabin. We are developing new methods of heating and cooling the cabin, to achieve substantial reductions in energy consumption.”

Rather than continuously heating or cooling a flow of air as it enters the car, Jaguar Land Rover is researching how a car could heat or cool an ‘Air Bubble’ inside the vehicle once, and then maintain the temperature and quality of this air bubble using innovative new HVAC technologies. These include infra-red reflective (IRR) glass, tailor-made for the solar radiation profile of an individual region or country. The glass would reflect the sun’s rays so less energy is required to cool the inside of the car.

To maintain the breathable quality of the warmed or cooled bubble of air, cabin air would be passed through a special filter in the vehicle boot. This filter would remove CO2, moisture and particulates from the cabin air and provide better air quality inside the vehicle than out.

Warm Air Blanket: In the future it may also not even be necessary to heat or cool the volume of air inside the car. Instead the car could directly heat or cool the occupants with warm or cold air flowing through porous surfaces in the seats. Infra-red panels, invisibly embedded inside sun visors, door tops, the glove box door and the sides of the transmission tunnel would surround each occupant and would radiate heat to the body. This ‘Warm Air Blanket’ would cocoon individual occupants in their own microclimate, and warm just the occupant’s skin rather than maintaining the entire cabin at a given temperature.

Because the panels heat up quickly and efficiently, and because the sensation of feeling warm is almost immediate, energy consumption could be dramatically reduced. By combining these techniques, early test results show it is possible to reduce the consumption of an HVAC system by half, from 8-12kW, to 4-6kW.

“Weight saving is crucial to improve fuel consumption and emissions. Jaguar Land Rover’s engineers lead the world in the development of lightweight vehicle bodies to reduce weight to improve handling, fuel efficiency and emissions. Our researchers are moving beyond lightweight body structures and are looking at every component in the car, from how to replace traditional wiring looms with printed electronics, to developing prototype seats much lighter than they are today,” added Dr Epple. “We are also investigating how we could make use of carbon fibre in future vehicles by mixing carbon fibre with innovative new materials like flax, as well as new techniques for manufacturing carbon fibre components in higher volumes than is feasible today.”

Jaguar Land Rover’s research team is investigating whether a vehicle’s copper-based wiring loom and electrical components could be replaced with innovative wafer-thin printed electronic circuits, currently used in curved televisions. The technology could be deployed as a lightweight and space-saving alternative to traditional wiring for features including instruments, switches, sensing, lighting, heating and displays.

Using a forming process called thermoplastic composite stamping, Jaguar Land Rover research engineers have succeeded in developing a new type of lightweight polymer seat structure that weighs 30 per cent less than an equivalent steel-based seat structure. The PLACES seat technology makes the structural components work as part of the comfort system and enables consolidation of parts, reducing weight. Seat cushions and fabric covering are also optimised for weight without impinging on comfort. This enables less foam depth, which offers a slimmer seat profile. This could also aid packaging and liberate more space within the vehicle.

The Carbio project is looking at how we could make carbon fibre more environmentally friendly and cost effective, while improving its noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) properties.

CARBIO combines layers of carbon fibre and flax with an environmentally-friendly cashew nut oil resin. Flax is a natural and sustainable plant material and was chosen because of its inherent sound dampening properties. CARBIO brings the strength and lightweight benefit of carbon fibre together with the sustainability and lower cost of flax. While the manufacturing cost of CARBIO is similar to that of traditional carbon fibre, the material cost of mixing carbon fibre and flax is one-third cheaper.

Components made from CARBIO are 28 per cent lighter than aluminium and 55 per cent lighter than steel and because of the improved NVH properties provided by the flax, a CARBIO component requires less additional sound deadening material around it than traditional carbon fibre, aluminium or steel, potentially saving even more weight.

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